Author Archives: 2thom

Unique Haircut Experience at Boomerang Cuts Barbershop by Jermaine Thomas

10976 North Freeway
Houston, TX 77037 (281) 847-1002

November 2010-People sometimes travel to fancy places like the Astrodome or the Galleria in order to enjoy Houston. They believe that the only way to have a good time in Houston is to spend large amounts of money at luxurious restaurants and attractions. Places like the Toyota Center and Minute Maid Park may be very fun and unique locations to visit while in Houston. However, there is a place that can please a person just as much. The only difference is that they will not have to spend a large amount of money there in order to have a good time. In fact, a person will not spend any more than twenty dollars while inside unless you just feel obligated to give a generous donation. Also, you will not need to travel half way around the world in order to visit.

Boomerang Cuts Barbershop is really one of the few places in Houston that a person will enjoy visiting without gaining anything other than a friendly environment and a nice conversation. The barbershop has made multiple appearances in the Houston Chronicle being called “…one of the best barbershops in Houston.” In my opinion it should have been headlined, “The Best Barbershop in Houston” because I believe that it truly is. They “design some of the most stylish haircuts and hairstyles In Houston…” as stated in the Houston Chronicle, but more importantly there is no other establishment in Houston where a person can receive as much generosity as they will while visiting The Boomerang Cuts Barbershop. It is truly the place to visit while in Houston.

Boomerang Cuts Barbershop is one of the few original barbershops in Houston that has survived the arrival of new barbershops that are equipped with high tech clippers, expensive commercials, and flashy billboards that just about blind you. The new barbershops utilize these things in order to advertise their business and increase their clientele. Boomerang Cuts Barbershop does not need these tactics in order to keep clients coming back. Their top-of-the-line haircuts, generosity, and family environment is enough to keep customers returning. All kinds of races, from Latinos and Caucasians to African Americans and Indians, come in and out of the barbershop every day. It is a true representation of what the Houston community is like most. Non-Houstonians might think of Houston as a city full of people that only care about chopped and screwed music and trucks. Though the barbershop might play chopped and screwed music from time to time, that is not the only kind of music we listen to. I found it hilarious when a Californian once asked me if I knew what MTV was until I realized he was not joking. The fact is that Houston is “…one of the most diverse cities when it comes to race and ethnicity…” (www.visithoustontexas.com). More importantly, Houston is also filled with caring, and friendly people like the ones you’ll find at Boomerang Cuts Barbershop.

The Boomerang Cuts Barbershop has been a part of the Houston city since 1982, and the barbershop has not moved from its location in the Greenspoint community. Although the exterior has been recently painted with beige paint, the old octagonal shaped windows in the front of the shop and the original 1980’s red and white striped pillar beside the door hints to just how long the barbershop has been around. It might not be as appealing to the eye as the Pyramids of Egypt, but unlike the Pyramids you feel a sense of homey security as you approach the sidewalk to the barbershop. It’s as if the barbershop is extending its hand to you, beckoning you to come in where it is safe. You might think its safety is due to its location directly behind a recently built elementary school, however, throughout the twenty years the barbershop has been in operation, the police have never had to pay a visit to Boomerang Cuts except for medical emergencies. This is very surprising considering that it is located at the heart of a high crime area. No one really knows why no one has ever tried to rob the barbershop or commit any type of crimes in or near the barbershop. It may be because all of the barbers are very muscular black men or possibly because the local community knows the barbershop is a true family. Whatever the reason may be, it seems to have kept all of the violence of the outside world on the outside of the barbershop.

Inside, the noise of clippers and obvious bellowing of blow dryers greet you. If you are lucky, you might stumble in on the barbers and clients in the middle of a discussion about a controversial topic. The last time I entered two of the barbers, Bernard and Juan, were discussing whether or not President Obama should be considered the first black president since his mother is a white female.

“Maybe he could be named the first half-black president, Bernard, because that’s all he is.” says Juan in a comical but stern manner.

When Lil Wayne was sent to prison last year, everyone was talking about it. “The police is just hatin’ because Wayne is at the top of his game. They can’t help but to bring my boy down when he’s at the top.” said, Richy, another barber. A client of his replied saying, “ Oh shut up Richy. The only reason you say that is because you’re still working here instead of releasing platinum albums like you said you were gonna do for the last five years.”

These are just a couple examples of the many conversations that take place in the barbershop. The topics range from entertainers to politics and usually go on for about two hours, but there is never really any hostility displayed towards each other. That is why many people love going to the Boomerang Cuts Barbershop. You can talk about anything you without being judged or receiving negative comments from the others. It is a place to express your opinions, and questions asked.This open acceptance of clients and ideas makes Boomerang Cuts Barbershop a place to get away from all of the chaos in your life and just relax.

The waiting area for the clients smells like a mixture of the barber’s hair grease and the cleaning products they use to clean their combs and clippers as you enter. As you lean back to get your haircut or hairdo, the first thing you might see is that the ceiling looks as though it were the original ceiling tiles with the many yellow stains from water on the roof. The tile on the floor looks like crystal clear seawater. It is aqua blue engulfed in a wave like pattern. If you stare at it long enough you might even feel as though you’re wading in the fresh waters of the Bahamas. Also, there are two vending machines filled with overpriced snacks and drinks for the waiting clients. The first time I used one of the vending machines I was about seven years old, at the time, and my mom had dropped me off at the barbershop to get a haircut for the first day of school. I had seventy-five cents in my pocket and decided to get a Snickers bar. I put my change in the machine, entered the code, and two minutes later I was still staring at the machine, just realizing there would be no Snickers for me, and that it had stolen my last bit of change. I must have cried for about five hours until it was time for me to get my haircut. I never like those vending machines after that. Now as I sit in the comfy chairs waiting to get my haircut, I ignore it’s pleas for money and focus on the twelve artistic barbers chomping away at their client’s hair, creating and designing a true works of art. All kinds of hair is scattered on the floor around them: curly hair, black hair…even fake hair.

If the barbers themselves aren’t enough to keep your interest, the recreational area might. It is open to anyone and everyone, including children and babies. They have an X-Box 360 for the children, teenagers, and even the more juvenile adults. It can get very loud in this area as the kids really get into the game, and occasionally you can hear a few kids crying after being defeated. They feel as though their world has come to an end. The X-Box 360 is probably the most up to date piece of technology in the barbershop, except for the alarm system. Most of the barbers still use the foldable razor blade that has been used since the early 1900’s instead of the newer electronic clippers. This again reflects just how original the barbershop really is. There is a separate area for the infants to rest without being disturbed by all of the ruckus and loud conversations throughout the barbershop.

As a child growing up in the Greenspoint community, there was always a lot of chaos in the environment that I witnessed firsthand. Drug dealers running from the police, grocery stores getting robbed. There were not too many places I could go and feel as if nothing could harm me. In fact, I can only remember two specific locations allowed me to feel safe which are my home and the Boomerang Cuts Barbershop. It was not only a barbershop, but a safe haven. It has always provided me and the members of my community with the mental protection from the outside world. While sitting in the recreational room of the barbershop or in the chair getting my haircut, I felt like nothing in the world could harm me. It’s no wonder as to why Boomerang Cuts Barbershop,”…keeps all clients coming back.”

LINKS
X-Box 360 Website
Greenspoint Website
Bahamas Website

Author’s Bio
Jermaine Thomas grew up in Houston, Texas with his mother and four younger siblings. He is a first year undergraduate student attending the University of Houston-Downtown. He is currently working on his Bachelor’s in Computer Science. Afterwards, he will then move on to attaining a Master’s in Software Engineering. Jermaine plans to use these degrees to pursue a career as a computer software engineer.

MAP

 

Latin Fling: Capriccios Latin Club by Raquel Bermeo

7933 Westheimer
(Between Hillcroft and Fondren)

January, 2004–Thick sweat runs down her face as she closes her eyes, tilts her head up and dances to Tito Rojas. The sweet sound of the bongos, guitar and bass collaborate to make a unified and calming sound. Echoing and bouncing against the red polished walls, people dance to the music as if it were their last. The cloudy, hot building is filled with a diverse crowd from different regions of the world. Both men and women alike celebrate life. Every Saturday night, family, friends and strangers gather at the hottest after hour’s Spanish club, Capriccio.

For the past five years, Capriccio is open to the public until five-thirty in the morning. It allows you to continue partying while the rest lock their doors. Conveniently located on Westheimer, this club is a Caribbean restaurant by day and party scene by night. It is known for hosting the Colombian/Venezuelan parties where traditional empanadas, chorizo, and pasteles are the nightly menu. The diversity and let-

loose motto attracts the most exotic women and eligible bachelors. There is someone new to meet night after night.

Passing through the smoked filled room, I notice a particular couple one night. For some reason they strike me a little awkward, they gave me an awkward vibe. Moving swiftly with grace, the tall and handsome man leads his partner in complicated steps and turns. The colorful fluorescent lights made of every color of the rainbow accentuate their precise steps. It is like watching a scene out of a movie, but then again Capriccios is also known for housing professional dancers.

“Don’t spin me too fast; I had a couple of drinks,” the lanky brunette manages to say in a couple of mumbles.

“Oh, don’t worry. You look great,” he responded as he tries to run his fingers through his overly gelled hair.

He is the type of guy that gives you that mysterious yet creepy feeling. She continued to dance in her fitted, white Channel dress that she probably got off the sales rack at Saks. I saw the dress this past Thursday at their private sale but I couldn’t squeeze into it if my life depended on it. Gazing around the room as if looking for her friends, her face is starting to wrinkle in worry. As she squints, she realizes her friends are becoming distant, almost invisible.

“Gosh, I don’t think I should have had that last shot of tequila,” she says.

I’m standing just a couple feet away and the smell of the heavy alcohol reeks from her body. She starts sway back and forth with a grin on her face. Friday and Saturday nights are well known for their drink specials. Capriccios specializes in serving traditional shots of vodka to bizarre fruit mixers. Her black mascara and smeared eye shadow emphasized her pale skin. With out the swerving lasers, I couldn’t even tell how horrible she looked from how dark the club is.

“Uh, I don’t feel good,” she says

The young girl wobbles over the dark brown floor, occasionally stepping into grooves and cracks. Bumping into every other person and holding on to the smooth red walls, she makes her way to the bathroom.

“What’s going on?” says Rocio as she interrupts my short movie.

“Your typical under aged drinker that pushes her limit,” I reply

Just like every other club in Houston, there are minors that find a way to sneak in. I don’t know how they do it. It is usually not a problem since they try to maintain a low profile, fearing they will be kicked out. The age requirement is twenty-one to drink and eighteen to enter.

In charge of setting this requirement is the charming Rafael. He is one of five bouncers at Capriccios. His average height and alarming good looks set the example.

“Hey cutie, how are you?” Rocio says as she passes by the guy next to us.

This is one of the reasons why I bring her with me; if there is a pretty face, she won’t hesitate to introduce herself or me. It is kind of entertaining, but sometimes it is hard to distinguish between minor and adult. The club usually maintains two bouncers outside and one inside to prevent this from happening; but even through tough security they manage to get in.

Along with the appropriate dress code and age requirement there is the entrance fee. After standing in a short line, the fee is only ten dollars. On top of paying a reasonable amount, once you enter and receive your Ying-Yang stamp, there are two men giving out free passes for your next visit. Capriccios is one of the only clubs in Houston that do this. The entrance is a bright fuchsia that automatically catches your eye and converts the mood. The club even goes out of its way to please their customers by creating a web site offering free passes for drinks and entrance.

Another way Capriccios reaches out to their clientele is by their website, http://www.caprilatin.com.Its picture gallery is one not to be missed. Every time you visit Capriccios, you have the opportunity to have your picture taken with friends, dancing or simply just hanging out. It is an excellent way to reach out to their customers and make a memorable connection. Along with the numerous photos and free passes, the upcoming events are posted daily.

One of the most popular parities held at Capriccios is the Colombian Independence Festival. Neighboring Colombian restaurants that offer affordable prices caters the traditional food. There is sometimes a thirty-minute wait in line before you get a chance to order, but it is worth the wait. Another favorite is the talented DJ Guanakito. His blend of Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, and Reageton sets him apart from all the Spanish DJs in Houston. His energetic attitude and love of music truly shows in his performances.

“Everybody on the dance floor, this is for you!” Is one of DJ Guanakito’s favorite phrases.

“Raquel, did you ever see what happened to that brunette in the white dress?” asks Rocio.

“Uh, no.” I forgot all about her.

We turn to look towards the restrooms and two young men and a woman escort out the young brunette. Her head hangs low either out of lack of stamina or of mere embarrassment. The crowd barely notices her as if it never happened.

“I guess some get caught and some don’t,” I mumbled.

Rocio and I make our way to the VIP area. An over built bouncer stands by the ropes. The closed off square is about the size of a large SUV. The antique wooden table sets are romantically lit with several white tea candles. Capriccios limit the size of the VIP because they only want a minute, elite list. They keep this area very private with sheer ivory drapes. The few that have the opportunity to reserve this section are close friends of the owners and business associates.

“Busy tonight?” I ask him.

“Not really. It’s only one.” Is his response.

An important fact about the club is that it is meant for post clubbing. Arriving before twelve o’clock, you will find the club generally empty, closely resembling a ghost town.

By the time we circle the club twice greeting people and dancing a couple of songs, we decide our time is up for the night. We make our way through the crowd of people outside the square-patch dance floor. Because of the smoke, we squint our eyes and try not to bump into people on our way out. We wave to our friends at the bar serving drinks and walk through the fuchsia walls.

“Leaving so soon?” Rafael questions.

“Well, its getting late. It’s about to be three,” I say, “Time passes by fast when you’re having fun.”

I wink and smile nonchalantly. We then hug and say good bye under the canopy entrance. Carefully walking down the sloped, concrete walkway we make our way to the valet. I give him my keys and look back at the Capriccios sign. Lit in bright red, the sign hangs in a cursive script. The valet returns in just a few minutes, an addition to the excellent service. I pass him a ten and thank his effort. Driving slowly through the narrow alley that leads to Westheimer, Rocio and I agree that this was another successful journey at Capriccios.

MAP:

A Friday Night: AMC 24 Theaters

 January 2004–Sunlight washed over the vast parking lot, reflecting off of the pavement as we drove in. There were cars filling practically every spot, and I had never seen such a large cineplex before. I was coming from my comparatively small town to visit my cousin for the weekend. The size of it was almost daunting; I had been to the movies before, of course, but the movie theater back home was not nearly as large as the AMC 24 that we were standing before. There was only one screen to be found in that broken down, fire-hazardous theatre. We could hear the commotion of excited teenagers before we had even exited her Corolla.

I followed behind her as we walked up to the ticket booth. We passed by a wide fountain spraying out beautiful clear blue water into the basin, and I looked in to see the bottom speckled with change. It was refreshingly cool outside even though the sun was out, and I was glad that I had decided to wear a skirt today. I soon regretted that decision, however, when I felt the blast of cold air escaping from inside the ticket booth as the employee inside handed over our tickets. Why do I always forget that movie theaters are freezing, I thought as we walked to the door. I never understood why the managers in these places feel the need to freeze their occupants.

As we walked inside, the overall scenery impressed me. It was dim, and it cast a slightly mellow and romantic mood. Movie posters advertising this week’s coming attractions and beyond were placed on the walls; they were definitely a step up from the half-torn, frayed posters from back home. They were all behind this glass covering, safely protected from the spontaneous vandalism of errant teenagers. I had never seen the appeal of wanting to deface public property, but maybe I had just never reached that realm of boredom. There was more than enough “security,” for there were cops walking around and socializing with other employees. A circular area was isolated by rope connecting from an information desk as soon as we entered the main door, and my cousin handed over our tickets. They told us to walk down the hall and to the right after handing us back the stubs. I started to head in that direction, but my cousin caught my arm.

“Not just yet,” she said. “First, we’re going this way,” and she pointed straight ahead.

We walked forward, and the first thing that I noticed was that a dome structure was erected over four pillars in the middle of the room, just before the main concession stand. I had seen others down the hallways that branched off from this area, and the smell of popcorn was more distinctive as we walked closer. There were benches under the dome, and as we walked underneath, she pointed upward, and I saw a miniature replica of the night sky.

“It’s pretty cool, isn’t it?” she said, and her voice echoed as we stood beneath the starlit dome.

She was right. This display was definitely a step up from the little neon green, glow-in-the-dark stars and moon that I stuck on my ceiling when I was a kid. Even though I kept them up there, I never thought those stickers glowed the way they were supposed to. There was effort put into this, although most people probably would not think that when they look at it.

“Yeah, it is pretty cool,” I said as I rubbed my arms, “and it’s also pretty cool in here period.” Next time, I am bringing a jacket, I thought.

“You get used to it,” she said as she grabbed my arm again. “Come on, or we’ll miss the previews.”

We passed many more posters as she practically dragged me down the lengthy hallway, and I even came across a few life-sized posters made of cardboard. I caught a glimpse of a few game machines, and as we moved past, a kid hit one in frustration as he dug in his pockets for more quarters. As we entered our designated theater, there was music playing on the wide movie screen, and I looked up to see that the film had not started yet. We walked up the walkway, and turned the corner at the end of the wall. The seating led up off the floor of the theater, reminding me of the inside of a stadium. We sat somewhere towards the middle, but not in the back because there were already teenagers there. They were already making enough noise, and I sat back and hoped that they would not continue that behavior when the movie started, but that seemed unlikely. I had read somewhere once that if they were in Japan, the whole theater would have been looking at them with censorship at this point, especially if they did not stop once the movie began As soon as that thought crossed my mind, a man and woman walked by, their three kids trailing behind them. The family of five moved down the next row behind us, and one of their small children, a boy that looked about eight-years old and already fighting with his older sister, sat behind me. Light fixtures projecting from the walls began to dim. This is going to be great, I thought as the movie began, little feet already kicking the back of my chair.

I sat through the latest comedy/drama for the next two hours, and after we moved down a couple more seats, I was actually able to enjoy the movie. The other audience members laughed at all of the appropriate comical attempts in the movie, and I laughed along with them. The air conditioning situation was even worse while sitting in the theater, and it made me yearn even more for the comfort of a jacket. My stomach started to rumble, and I wished that my cousin and I had stopped for some popcorn before rushing in here, but I could do without. As I sat there rubbing my legs and trying to get a little warmer, I looked and saw a couple sitting in front of us a few rows down. The girl was sitting next to her boyfriend, and the arm had been let up between their seats so that she could cuddle up to his side as he put his arm around her. It was a little strange that I noticed that, but they looked cute sitting there together. It was not an overt display of affection, just simple and romantic. If they had been in another country, such as Malaysia, they could have been fined $70. It must be nice to have someone like that, I thought to myself.

As the movie wound down and the credits started to roll, I rose out of my seat along with my cousin. We walked out of the row and down the walkway, and as we passed by the couple, my cousin started to giggle.

“Look at them,” she said, and I looked over to see that the couple was kissing. “I don’t think they even know that the movie’s over,” she said with another giggle. I rolled my eyes at her; sometimes she could be so silly and immature.

“Come on,” I said as I pushed her down the walkway. “You’re holding people up, and on top of that, you’re silly,” I said, but all she did was laugh.

” I am not.”

“Yes, you are, but I am not going to argue with you about it because I’m right.” I said, sticking out my tongue at her.

“Talk about silly,” she said with a laugh as we walked out through the doors into the lit hallway. There was a concession stand situated in front of us, and my stomach growled, a signal that I was still hungry. She heard it, and with a look of humor in her eyes, she grabbed my hand and said, “Let’s get something to eat.”

She led me down the hall towards the main entrance where the larger concession stand could be found.

“Why didn’t we just go to the one back there?” I asked as we passed some kids competing at a driving game.

“You know, I don’t know why, but I swear that whenever I come here, those concession stands are never open. I think it’s really stupid for them to do that though, because it just makes it crowded up here,” she said, and she gestured to in front of us where there were already lines of people in front of the three open cash registers.

As I waited behind my cousin in line, she turned to me and asked, “So, how did you like coming here today?”

” I really had fun,” I said. We were finally next in line, and we ordered our food and stood of to the side to wait.

“Do you always come here?” I asked her as we stood there.

“Yeah. I love coming here, and the price is alright to see a movie in such a nice theater.”

“Yeah, you’re right. This theater is really pretty cool,” I said as I received my food from the cashier. We walked over to the domed structure in the middle of the room, and sat on one of the benches beneath it. We sat there for a while, just eating and talking, catching up in a way that we had never had the chance to in awhile.

As I sat and finished up the remnants of my hot dog, I looked over to see my cousin staring up at the dome, and I started to laugh as she said, ” I wish I may, I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight.”

She looked over to me and said, ” I always wanted to do that, but I never took the time to wish on a star.”

” Think it will come true?” I said with a small smile.

“I don’t know. I hope the wishing gods accept spur-of-the-moment improvisations.”

“You ready?” She asked.

“Yeah,” I said, and I stood up to throw away my trash.

We walked outside to be greeted by a setting sun and a fresh breeze blowing through the parking lot. As we walked past the ticket booth, I looked at all of the people milling around outside, a few of them sitting on the side of the porcelain fountain and talking with friends. As we walked back to her car, she looked over to me and said, “I am really glad we did this today.”

“So am I,” I said as I looked out of the window at the theater one last time.

MAP:


Houston’s Wild Kingdom: The Houston ZOO by Brian Campbell

1513 North MacGregor Way
Houston, TX 77030
(713) 533-6500

April 2004–Who says the lion is the king of the jungle? I would argue that the full grown male tiger is really who to look out for. Something about these huge cats grabs me every time I see one. The ability tigers have in spite of their size is truly humbling. Lightning fast reflexes and unparalleled hunting and survival skills. Ever since I was a kid I have always loved animals, and especially tigers. If you have ever heard the roar from or seen pictures of the aftermath that these mighty cats leave behind then you know how truly awesome they really are. Here in Houston there is only one place to see such an animal, the Houston Zoo. Whether you’re like me and enjoy big cats or maybe even reptiles then there is something here for you. So one Sunday I decided to head over to the zoo in Herman Park. It was a beautiful day that Sunday and when I pulled into the parking lot I could barely see anything except excited children and their parents rushing for the entrance, and maybe a few people like me who were just alone.

When I got out of the car I instantly smelled the smell of the wild, which can often be unpleasant, but today it smelled particularly good. Vendors on the sidewalks were busy painting kids’ faces and selling things like ice cream and cotton candy. As I walked up to the entrance I could hear the sounds of the animals inside. There were birds from all over the world and monkeys making noise, excited about all the visitors there to see them. The first place I saw once I was inside was the reptile exhibit. If you are a person who is fascinated with small deadly reptiles and extremely colorful fish from all over the world then this is one place you have to check out. I walked up to the glass cage where a 12 foot boa constrictor was housed and watched in awe as it slowly moved its head forward to see what was pressed up against the glass of its home. This creature could crush a grown man with ease if provoked because its entire body is pure muscle, and to me that’s amazing. I don’t personally own a pet but I really enjoy watching animals up close, and especially animals you don’t see everyday. That’s why this is the exhibit to see.

Next I made my way over to the giraffe cage. Now this is a sight everyone should see. The giraffes in this zoo are some of the tallest I have seen yet. They have a specially made “barn” which is high enough for them to walk under and provide shelter in case of a rain storm. It’s very cool to watch these animals eat. They seem so docile but I know I wouldn’t want to be in there if one got mad. I stood there for about five minutes waiting to see if anything was going to happen, but the giraffes just stood there and looked on. By this point I was ready for the main event, the lions and tigers. Although reptiles and giraffes are really neat, this is what just about everyone comes here to see. Some people think lions are more powerful and others are tiger fans. The truth is, they are both just about equally as powerful and would probably never fight one another in case it involved their young. I am a tiger man myself. These cats are the most amazing animals in the world next to the great white shark. Adult tigers can weigh up to 700 pounds and devour up to 77 pounds of meat in one night and then not eat for a week. Yet they are able to move with speed and grace like a small house cat. This exhibit is always crowded so I had to maneuver my way up to the front to get a good look. At first I didn’t see anything at all. I was very disappointed and began to look around trying to catch a glimpse of this awesome cat when all of a sudden I saw it. Perched atop a rock formation above a small creek in the cage sat the huge beast, watching. It knew we were coming long before we got there. The cage is set up with plants and trees and rocks to simulate as best as possible a natural habitat for such a large animal. The tiger had already picked out this place to hide and watch and I realized just how keen its survival and hunting skills were after it revealed itself to us. No one standing outside the cage could spot it until it decided it was time, and who knows if it ever would have? This particular tiger was a large male, almost full grown with a bright coat of orange and black and a beautiful face. It slowly sat up from what I guess was its afternoon nap and gracefully leapt down from its perch about fifteen feet high as though it was no bother at all. I didn’t even hear him land. Then he slowly made his way to the creek to take a swim. Tigers love the water and it was apparent that this one desired a little cooling off because he swam around the creek for about three or four minutes. Before I left the exhibit I heard the tiger growl. Not an angry growl, just a little wake up yawn. Anyone who has ever heard that sound will never forget it, it commands respect. This made my trip all worth while.

If you love animals like I do then its important to visit zoos because they are responsible for keeping certain species alive. The tigers here at the Houston Zoo aren’t the largest I have ever seen, but equally as impressive. In some ways I feel very sorry for these animals that are caged but I also realize that in the wild tigers may live up to 15 years or more. In captivity they often live to be 20 years old. The majority of the proceeds from admission go toward the care of these precious animals who inevitably, if left in the wild, would be poached to extinction. Sixty percent of the world’s tigers are found in India. The Indian government estimates that fewer than 3750 Royal Bengal tigers remain. At this point I had made most of my rounds and had only a few things left I wanted to see but it was time for a drink. I headed for the front area to grab a coke or a snow cone and watched as people lined up to ride paddle boats around a pond in the middle of the park. I drank my coke and watched as people fed the geese and birds around the pond. It was late afternoon now and I had been here long enough so I decided to call it a day and head to the house. I had a lot of fun that day though and I would strongly encourage anyone who desires a lazy afternoon activity which is anything but ordinary to go. Anyone who loves animals will want to pay a visit to the Houston Zoo. I fall into this category and frequently visit the facility. The zoo was originally founded in 1922 after a bison was donated as a gift to the City of Houston from the U.S. Government. This act prompted the city to buy a collection of animals and build a fence around an area of Herman Park where a small zoo already existed. At the beginning the zoo began with only forty animals. Today the zoo hosts over 1.4 million guests every year. Occupying slightly more than fifty-five acres, the zoo includes over 3,000 animals from over 500 species. The zoo is managed by Houston Zoo Inc. which is a non profit organization committed to helping endangered species and educating anyone who is interested in learning more about the animals of the world.

Among the many attractions available to the public are a petting zoo, a wetlands exhibit which houses alligators, and the gorilla habitat where the only eastern lowland gorilla in North America lives. No matter who you are, there is something here for you. Adults and children can also rent paddle boats for rides around the zoo’s pond and check out all of the various water fowl that inhabit the area. When the weather permits you will find face painters, balloons, and cotton candy all along the paths outside the zoo entrance. Over time the Houston Zoo has risen to the seventh most visited zoo in the country, and therefore has proven its devotion to the care and knowledge of animals, and to providing its guests with an experience not soon forgotten. Many endangered species have slowly increased their numbers at this zoo. More than 65 Chinese Alligators have been hatched here since 1995, a reptile who has long been on the endangered species list. Aside from helping animals, the zoo also has a number of volunteer programs and community opportunities to offer Houstonians. The Docent program enlists volunteer teachers to spread education at zoo seminars, exhibits, and at schools all over the Houston area. Houston Zoo Inc. also sponsors a volunteer program which encompasses almost every aspect of the zoo from office assistance to working alongside staff members in classes. Teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 can get involved with the Zoo Crew and spend time in education programs at local facilities including the Brown Education Center and in the zoo’s mammal and bird displays.

Besides the various programs the zoo sponsors, businesses are also invited to host functions at the zoo. There are many options for hosting your next meeting or party in a truly one of a kind atmosphere. I always like the fact that in spite of Houston’s sprawling high rises and businesses everywhere, there is still a place you can go to relax. Herman Park and the zoo have provided a beautiful contrast in the city for people to enjoy themselves and check out some cool animals. For over eight decades the Houston Zoo has provided a unique learning experience for the entire family and also helped to conserve and breed all types of endangered species. This zoo is a place for everyone and certainly a must see for anyone who isn’t a native Houstonian. The zoo is open all year long from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is located at 1513 North MacGregor, Houston, TX. 77030. I have no doubt that this zoo will continue to flourish and support the animals and people of Houston for many more decades to come. Call (713) 533-6500 and check it out for yourself, because if you love animals, you won’t be disappointed.

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Denver Harbor: Bad and Good by: Albert Carmona

Denver Harbor: Bad and Good by: Albert Carmona

January 2004–Denver Harbor Park is a neighborhood where I’ve lived all my life. Eighteen years of my life. There are so many stories to tell. It’s located on I-10 East off of Lathrop/Kress st. It’s ethic back ground are mostly Hispanic and a little white and black families here and there. Its size is no bigger than U of H. It’s one of them hoods as I like to call them where it’s not so big but the people who live there think they are. Well, what I’m trying to say is that people who live there think their the big shit. That’s why there’s so much gang violence and shooting. My hood used to be real bad where people hate each other.

I would be scared to walk the streets alone at night cause I was scared of getting jump or who can imagine what would happen. My hood has its color and it’s RED. Still today all across America bloods and crips rome the streets, RED signifying bloods and BLUE signifying crips. This blood and crip thing all started in L.A. and every major city has caught on to it. Sometimes it gets so bad about wearing the wrong color in my hood that you might get shot at or stabbed. It sounds so stupid and ignorant but I hang around a lot with homeboys from my hood, and I know their down for whatever. It’s hard to believe that they would fight over a stupid color, but when I was younger and stupid I was one of them. I can really explain how its works but it all has to with pride. Everyone knows Hispanics have a lot of pride.

I have two older brothers, Rudy and Alex. I think the only one who really got deep into the gang activity was Alex. At the age of 14 he began a long life of violence and getting locked up a lot as a juvenile. His reputation was known on the streets of Denver Harbor. He was locked up 3 times in juvenile detention facilities and when he hit adult age. He’s been locked up like four times in Harris County Jail. I think all these bad things happened to him because of where we live. The friends and peer pressure hit you hard and you really cant say no because it makes you lot like a you know. Right know as I speak my brother is locked up in County for two-cases of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He’s had to many changes, but I hope they give him one more. He has a wonderful wife and a beautiful 2-year-old girl and all that might not be anything if he is put away for a long time. On October 8, he goes to court, their going to put him in a line up. They say they got a witness, I hope not. If hes convicted he might do some time.

The crime does not stop there. My family has history of petty crime and incarceration. My father has a long history of jail to prison time. As a youth, my dad was in drugs, violence and gangs. At the age of 18, he was diagnosed with hepatitis B. His life almost past him like that due to drinking. Living in Denver Harbor can effect anyone who there. About three years ago, my father spent two straight years in prison for having a concealed handgun and shooting it while drunk on the fourth of July. He’s changed and now lives a normal life. Through these many experiences my brothers and I have somewhat followed his ways, others more. Because of these things, my father is not able to live with us because my mother would not let him. Looking at all these bad things, I think it has had an effect on all my brothers and little sister.

Another reason why my hood is not so great. Through my years since my elementary years, I have had so many friends go the wrong way. To many had family problems, many did not know how to take it. It let them to a life of crime, theft even murder or being murdered. I can at least recall about five deaths in my hood. Two I knew and the others were young like me. One of my homeboy’s brothers got his life taken away back in March 31, 2003 by a cop. He was running from the law because they say he was tried of spending half of his life in jail. Sometimes I would ask his brother how can you take that shit, he said hey he chose that life. To me that real hard to say, his brother was 30 and he still tried to live the messed up life. The crazy thing about the death is that it happened in my hood right by the sister’s house. Damn its so fucking hard to live this thug life. That is what everyone labels people who come out of broken home or bad neighborhood.

I’ve never had a brother or sister taken away from due to gang violence or anything else. Because of my family never having to go through or having to feel what these families feel. Church has been the number one reason why; if it was not for church, I can honestly say that one my brothers would be dead. Jesus Christ has helped my family so much: financially and spiritually. It has kept us off the streets and off drugs. Its led us to believe that we can do something better for our lives and ourselves.

Another reason, it can be that baseball has always been a tradition in my family. Since we were little children playing with dirt my father, would get all six of us and play baseball with us. We grew up playing and loving the game for ourselves. While my homeboys were on the streets, I was playing a game of baseball. It kept me in school also. Every year in high school, I played for the team. It kept me very busy, but I loved that I had to go to practice everyday. It has been better than being on the streets our being shot at. I also do it for my mother. You know doing well in school staying out of trouble. My brother Alex couldn’t do it so I guess I’ll be the one who brings her the joy of having a son going to college and graduating. She tells me everyday. Please mejo (son) do not acted bad today, do all your work today and come home safely. To me that’s more than enough to do what’s she wants me to do. You see one thing about a Hispanic family is were very prideful. So when my mother tells me something or to do something. I try my very best to get it done.

On the flip side of Denver Harbor, it can be an ok place to live in. There is of course the recreation center where people can play sports and all sorts of fun activities. Denver Harbor Park has three baseball fields. Kids can come and play some baseball games. The ages range from 5 to 15 of age. They have regular season games and then the all-stars come along. The all-stars are the funniest part. You get to go to different parks and play different little leagues. In the end, two teams play for a district championship game and who ever wins, wins a huge trophy and a plaque with everyone name on it. If you were to go to Denver Harbor Park you would see my name four times, my brothers three times and my other brothers name twice

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Another fun place is the library, maybe not fun to everyone but to some. They have programs for kids to join, or kids can just come in and read a book in the quiet and cool building. The people who work in the library are very kind and easy to talk to. Almost every employee there I know. Just about any chance I get I go to the library and visit them. They have all sorts of books and of course the Internet. Also, there’s another park in the hood called LiL Red Park. It’s right next to an elementary school. The park has it’s own basketball court, but it’s much smaller than D.H. park. It has a small soccer field for all them soccer people out there. But, the best thing about the park I would say that brings that small park is that it has some sort of fake palm tress that shot out fresh cold water. Everyday during the summer little kids are out there just having a blast. It’s perfect because everyone knows that Houston weather is no joke.

In conclusion, we’ve seen Denver Harbor Park from a good side and a bad side. From the influence my hood can have on a teenager to having a good time in the sun at the park. No matter what neighborhood you live in, it’s how you live your life and what’s around you that determines how great you can become. But thanks to God and baseball I’ve done ok living in this harsh neighborhood. I’ve made it to college and I think everyone in Denver Harbor would say that’s one hell of an accomplishment.

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